Mabel’s First Road Trip: Why Palm Springs is a Great Escape with Baby in Tow

As travel begins to resume, you can bet that I’m itching to get back out into the world. Although Mabel is just four months, I’m proud that her first-weekend getaway is in the books. As eager as I am to sport her to more places, it’s still a bit (OK, a lot) of a trek. Enter sunny Palm Springs. Under two hours from LA, it seemed like a great place to escape and chill out with our wee one. From marvelous hotels and plenty of food options, read on to learn how we fared traveling with baby Mabel.

Packing for Three (Mostly One)

Despite we were headed to Palm Springs for just the weekend, I wanted to ensure we were prepared. This proved to be a bit tricky since a lot of the baby’s essentials had to be available until we left. During the week, I found myself adding those must-haves to a checklist. Favorite blanket, bottles, pump, the lifesaving “Wub a Nub” pacifier. 

Mom and dad managed with a piece of carry-on luggage and a backpack, but who knew a 10-pound kiddo would carry so much baggage? Playpen, clothes, an obscene amount of diapers, stroller, car seat. You get the idea. I’m also the master of stashing extra water jugs, snacks. I like to be prepared. Even if we are staying in civilization. 

Hitting the Road 

Pre-Mabel, I loved to hit the road early and make pit stops. This trip? We headed out around noon as we attempted to navigate “Pip Squeak’s” feeding schedule. I also kept in mind when our check-in time was to avoid extra driving around. Our longest stop turned out to be in San Bernardino as I searched (and searched) for a “quick” restroom stop. Following that, we pulled off once again in a Panda Express lot to get in a feed and new diaper. Minimum cries through all of this reminded us of what a trooper she is. Hangry and tired, I think I cried more than Mabel. 

In the future, Claremont will be our stop for a quick refresh. As we drove by on the 210 freeway, I was determined to keep cruising. Lesson learned. 

On our way back, I shared with Mike and Mabel a beloved pit stop; the Cabazon Dinosaurs. It’s fitting how much I adore this idiosyncratic spot since Pee Wee’s Big Adventure is one of my favorite cult films. Don’t forget to tell them Large Marge sent you! 

No drive out to the Coachella Valley is complete until you pay the Cabazon Dinosaurs a visit.
(c) Mary Farah
T-Rex was decked out for Easter. (c) Mary Farah

The Los Arboles Hotel 

The reason for this adventure was thanks to the Palm Springs Preferred Small Hotels. I’m a contributor to their blog and was on assignment at the tranquil Los Arboles Hotel. The beautiful thing about Palm Springs is its collection of boutique hotels. The selections are vast. Given the rich Old Hollywood history to the town, the Rendezvous gives guests the chance to stay where Marilyn Monroe actually did. If a hip, trendy vibe is what you’re after, I love ARRIVE. If you’re a part of the LGBTQ community and desire a clothing-optional getaway, the Santiago Resort awaits you. 

For a laid back stay with a nearly newborn babe, we couldn’t have been happier at Los Arboles. Our host, Karina Castañeda, ensured our suite shared no walls and was tucked in the back. We had a gorgeous front entrance/patio that was ideal for enjoying our take-out. The surrounding mountain views weren’t too shabby, either. 

Getting Settled 

It was a bit of trial and error as far as Mabel’s sleeping arrangements. Proving we’re first-timers in this parent department, we tested out her playpen since we thought she’d like to sprawl out. Not so much. We ended up utilizing her car seat on Saturday night. I cringe remembering this, yet she was snug as a bug. On our second night, she enjoyed kicking and babbling between us in our super comfortable King size bed. Room for all. 

We did, however, rock it with our bathroom setup. Despite the counter space being petite, we managed to squeeze our toothbrushes, toiletries, and Mabel’s array of bottles and her warmer all on there. The Spanish-accent tile adorning our bath and shower was extremely welcoming and the rain shower was just what this momma needed after a day of exploring. 

Our Extended Express suite felt like a private little hacienda or bungalow.
(c) Mary Farah
Comfy King bed. (c) Mary Farah

Gluten-free (and Delicious) in Palm Springs

Each time I’ve visited Palm Springs everywhere has been very gluten-free friendly. Since it was Mike’s first visit, I was excited to hit up some of my go-to’s. For dinner Saturday night, we decided on 849. Since we’re still being very cautious with dining and travel, we opted for takeout. Their menu of California cuisine blends upscale plates like Scottish steel-head (my pick) with sophisticated takes on old reliables like the Cuban sandwich (Mike’s order). 

For breakfast Sunday morning, we had to order out from Cheeky’s. Under a five-minute walk from the hotel, Mike chose their avocado toast and famous bacon flight. The staple to Cheeky’s, the sampler consists of Nodine’s applewood, romesco, jalapeno, Beeler apple cinnamon, and maple. Mike favored the applewood and I took a tiny bite of the apple cinnamon. It brought to mind Cinnamon Toast Crunch from my childhood. I devoured, as usual, their gluten-free crispy waffles.

We decided to dine out Sunday night and it was our first time doing so in over a year. It was well worth the wait as we enjoyed dinner al fresco at Los Arboles’ very own, El Mirasol. A Palm Springs favorite since 1985, El Mirasol is a true labor of love from the Castañeda family and their dedicated staff. Everything is made from scratch, and the dishes are some of the most authentic to Mexico we’ve enjoyed. I still cannot get over how fresh and creamy the guacamole was. I think Mike still dreams of the Cadillac margarita. 

Gluten-free waffles at Cheeky’s is the perfect Sunday morning. (c) Mary Farah
Fresh guacamole at El Mirasol. (c) Mary Farah

The Living Desert

Even though she’s still teeny, I’m so excited to take Mabel exploring. When the Living Desert invited us for the afternoon, I couldn’t turn down the offer. About a half-hour away in Palm Desert, the Living Desert truly is just that. An impressive roster of animals (giraffes, camels, kangaroos, even rhinos coming soon) gives the vibe of a zoo, and the exotic plants and hiking trails offer a botanical setting. 

I will admit, this will be a fun place when Mabel can appreciate it. She slept through most of the afternoon this time. If you visit with a stroller, keep in mind that some parts like the African Village are dirt and gravel. We struggled a bit as we walked through. If you need a quiet area for a breather (and diaper change), follow the trail up from the carousel. There’s a small playground for older kids and an abundance of picnic tables and chairs. 

We counted eight giraffes at the Living Desert. (c) Mary Farah
Mabel was tuckered out. (c) Mary Farah

Mabel the Explorer

All in all, this was such a terrific first getaway with Mabel. We’re very lucky that she’s such a good girl. Before this visit, I never would have thought of Palm Springs as a place to take the kids. Yet, if you plan accordingly, there’s a lot the family can enjoy together. Once she’s older, I look forward to taking her to the Aerial Tramway, Joshua Tree, the windmill tour, and back to the haunts we enjoyed this past Spring. 

(*Disclosure: This was a hosted trip on behalf of story purposes. All opinions are my own.)

  1. Liz

    May 14, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Looks fun! I have never been to Palm Springs but I always hear about how pretty it is there.

  2. Linda Milks

    May 15, 2021 at 6:50 am

    I loved Mabel’s adventure. @Los Arboles has such an accommodating staff, and I’m sure Karina adored having Mabel (and you two) stay.

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